Re: Playing God--Not quite, I think

Posted by Thermus aquaticus on Jul 14, 2002 at 10:03

Re: Playing God--Not quite, I think (Mike Kremer)

You rang. :)

Have a read of New Scientist and Nature Science Update for summaries of this work.

Don’t blame the scientists for doing this work. What they have done is show us that it is possible and, thus, have warned us of the potential risks.

Its pathological effects notwithstanding, the polio virus is a runt. Its genome is a mere 7000 base pairs and it codes for only a single protein (that is subsequently cleaved into multiple peptides in the infected cell). Its small genome size and simple viral genetics is why they chose it for this experiment. Despite this, it took 2 years of work to complete. Other viruses like smallpox, HIV, ebola etc etc have much bigger genomes and much more complicated genetics. Artificially recreating these viruses is highly unlikely with current technologies, if not impossible. But that’s not to say that new technologies might be invented that may make it possible. But even so, it would take expert scientists and state-of-the-art facilities to do it. A “poxy enemy agent” is no threat in this respect.

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